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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

SJVC celebrates 40 years and 40,000+ graduates

June 7, 2017
SJVC founders Robert and Shirley Perry with sons Mark and Mike
SJVC founders Shirley and Robert Perry (center), with their sons (and current owners of SJVC) Mark (left) and Mike (right).

In the same spirit of community that San Joaquin Valley College embodies, students, staff, faculty, graduates and their friends and families, along with local and state dignitaries, paid tribute to the College’s 40 years in business.

Mike and Mark Perry, second-generation owners of SJVC, welcomed more than 200 people to the celebration, which took place on the Visalia campus, not far from where the very first SJVC campus began with 3 students in the Medical Assistant program.

Founders Robert and Shirley Perry sat close to the outdoor stage, and Mike and Mark honored their parents for their vision, perseverance and heart that lay the foundation from which they expanded the College that has touched so many lives through successful career-focused education.

“My parents have a mythological image of student support and focus on each campus,” says Mike Perry, CEO and President. “That image permeates our culture and governance. Over the years, we went from ‘kitchen table board meetings’ to a committed Board of Governors that ensures the academic integrity of the institution and that its financial solvency is intact.”

The Perry’s feel deep gratitude toward SJVC’s Board of Governors: Dr. John Swiger (Chairman), Susan Good, Carol McLellan, Marlea Lyon and Jill Sozinho. “Our Board members embody a cross-section of community leaders and business and industry representatives who contribute their expertise, experience and heart to what we are trying to give our communities,” says Mike Perry.

SJVC has grown from that single Visalia campus in 1977 to 15 ground campuses that span California and an Online division, offering a combined 22 Medical, Business and Technical programs. Each program on every campus has an Advisory Committee comprised of leaders in each field of study that guides curriculum and practices toward its greatest success. Nearly a thousand committee members contribute their expertise toward that end.

Getting to this point of success has been a deliberate team effort, one that is engrained in every new hire and nurtured throughout their employment. That same allegiance is appreciated in the student population. “We know our students, staff and faculty all have life choices of where they work and where they go for their education,” says Mark Perry, Chairman of the Board. “We appreciate and honor them that they have chosen to be with us.”

One such student, who graduated in 1986 from the Medical Assisting program, was the keynote speaker at the College’s anniversary celebration. Marie Arroyo was 19 years old and living with her parents when she decided that community college wasn’t working out for her. Accelerated career training at SJVC was a better fit. More than 30 years later, she was happy to share her story of career success and her gratitude to SJVC for giving her the skills and training she needed to realize her career goals.

“Going into this, (SJVC’s Medical Assisting program) I didn’t have a back-up plan. Now I have tons of opportunities for a back-up plan. Something may take away my job, but nothing can ever take away my skills.”

“Marie spoke movingly about the work ethic she learned here,” says Wendy Mendes, SJVC’s V.P. of Administration. “She considers her SJVC education as the foundation of the career she has built.”

“When you see the positive effect you have on people’s lives, that’s very fulfilling,” says Mike Perry. “You look forward to every opportunity to have that impact on someone; and when you work in education, that opportunity comes daily.”

Liz Briseno has been Mike and Mark’s Executive Assistant at SJVC for 25 years. “Working directly for the owners of SJVC has always been challenging, exciting and very rewarding,” she says. “Every day is different and, to me, that makes my job fun. Most importantly, we are family.”

Special recognition was given to several long-term staff and faculty. The following will celebrate at least 15-years with SJVC this year; a few were there from nearly the beginning. Those devoted and cherished employees are:

  • Wendy Mendes-1978
  • Kevin Robinson-1981
  • Kim Soares-1985
  • Steve Perry-1985
  • Monica Urmson-1986
  • Diane Toomey-1987
  • Susan Montgomery-1988
  • David Kirk-1989
  • Tamara McNealy-1990
  • Tammie Zaczek-1991
  • Sujanalatha De Almeida-1991
  • Debbie Huss-1991
  • Elizabeth Briseno-1992
  • William Gradis-1992
  • David Mendes-1992
  • Kimberly Dickson-1992
  • Sheryl Rounsivill-1992
  • Alice Rodriguez-1993
  • Jan Klawitter-1994
  • Lorie Ragsdale-1994
  • Nancy Hale-1994
  • Russ Lebo-1995
  • Rochelle McEvoy-1995
  • Patricia Hughes-1997
  • Patricia Lefaive-1997
  • Brenda Serpa-1997
  • Diana Cote-1997
  • Stephanie Rubio-1997
  • Karen Koch-1998
  • Barbara Watrous-1998
  • Victoria Avilez-1998
  • Jennifer Worthley-1998
  • Tracy Fulleylove-1998
  • Pamela Harrell-1998
  • Teresa Martinez-1999
  • Lana Hover-1999
  • David Morra-1999
  • Nancy Lyles-2000
  • Marcia Vela-2000
  • Amy Campos-2000
  • Susie Topjian-2000
  • Russell Grimes-2000
  • Lygia Jolley-2000
  • Lisa Riddick-2000
  • Richard Simmons-2000
  • Mari Gordon-2000
  • Joseph Holt-2001
  • Carole Brown-2001
  • Otis O’Neal-2001
  • Leslie Nazaroff-2001
  • Elizabeth Hyde-2001
  • Judith Petty-2002
  • Gregg Filippelli-2002
  • Wendi Oliveira-2002
  • Terrance Verdun-2002
  • Sherril Hein-2002
  • Erika Hultquist-2002
  • Ralph Ortiz-2002
  • Allison Spikes-2002

The ceremony included presentations to the College by community and state legislative representatives: District Representative Weston Anderson (on behalf of State Senator Andy Vidak); Field Representative Stephanie Amaral (on behalf of State Senator Jean Fuller); Assemblyman Devon Mathis and District Director Janie Sustaita; City Council member Phil Cox; Rudy Mendoza (on behalf of Congressman Devin Nunes; Tulare County Supervisor Amy Shuklian.

San Joaquin Valley College looks forward to many more productive years ahead, serving communities throughout California.